We have all seen YouTube videos and TikToks of dogs waiting before eating their decadent-looking meals.
Many of the comments on these videos include questions like: “Just how do they get the dog to sit and wait like that?”
And comments like: “My dog could never wait for my permission before eating anything! Even their kibble!”
Well, what if I told you that teaching your dog to wait for your permission before eating is not that difficult? Even the most food driven of dogs can be taught this skill with enough practice.
Why is it a good idea to teach your dog to wait for your permission to eat?
The main benefit to teaching your dog to wait for your permission to eat is for them to stop running up to you, or even jumping up on you when you are trying to feed them.
This behavior can be really bothersome to dog owners at the best of times and potentially dangerous at the worst. This is especially true if you have a large dog that does this.
Do I need to teach my dog to wait for permission to eat if they don’t jump on me before meals?
Even if your dog doesn’t jump on you when feeding them meals, teaching your dog these skills can still be beneficial.
This is because teaching your dog to wait for permission before eating is a great way to prevent them from eating potentially harmful foods and items such as chocolate and chicken bones.
This is great for managing dogs that have the instinct to scavenge for food and other items when out on walks and left unattended in the house.
Similarly, this can be a great way to combat counter-surfing and food stealing in dogs long term.
How do I teach my dog to wait for my permission to eat?
Luckily, the actual process of teaching your dog to wait for permission before eating anything is fairly simple.
However, the process does include several steps, and it will likely take a lot of practice. Here I will break down this process to make it as simple as possible.
Your dog will need to know how to sit and stay first
Before you even begin teaching your dog to wait for your permission before eating, they will need to know how to sit and stay reliably.
This is because this skill is the essential foundation we are going to be building off of in this training.
Here is a helpful video of me introducing the sit and stay command to my dog.
“Sit”: Command One
“Stay”: Command Two
Wait: Wait a few seconds. You can make this waiting period longer as you practice.
“Yes”: Marker Word (Tells your dog they did what you asked. You can use any marker word you want to use! )
Reward: Treat and praise (Reinforces the behavior for next time.)
“OK”: Release Word (This tells your dog they are all done with the command and can move around again. You can use any release word you want to use!)
You will want your dog to sit and stay just like this. It is a good idea to start off easy since this behavior requires a lot of self-control on your dog’s part.
Over time, your dog will learn to sit and stay in more situations that aren’t as controlled, which is where the next part of the training comes in.
As you progress, you will want to gradually increase the amount of time you have your dog in a sit-stay. It is a good idea to practice this until you are satisfied with your dog’s ability to stay for a set amount of time.
Next, you can make the process more difficult with things like distractions and you moving around.
This second step to teaching sit and stay by adding time and distractions takes a lot of practice, and the more time you put into it, the better your dog’s ability to stay when asked will be.
This is when introducing the food comes in.
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Next, practice sit-and-stay before meals
Now, all you are going to be doing is practicing this sit-and-stay command around meals and food.
You may need a lot of patience during this stage of the training, especially if you have an extremely food-motivated dog on your hands.
Here is a helpful video depicting what I mean. Here I am using my dog’s kong, but you can practice with anything you’d like.
Treats, chews, bits of kibble, and even their whole meal all work great!
“Sit”: Command One
“Stay”: Command Two
Place Food: I recommend placing the food slowly. This way you have enough time to move it out of reach if your dog rushes toward it.
“OK”: The release word tells your dog they can get up and eat the food. No need for a marker word or treat here, as the food itself serves as the reward.
The main goal here is to only reward your dog after they have sat and stayed until you release them. If they rush toward the food prematurely, just lift the food out of reach and try again.
Ultimately, your dog should be able to wait for food like this every time. It may take a bit of practice before they start instinctively behaving this way each time, though.
Continue practicing and gradually make things more challenging for your dog
If your goal from this training is to also prevent your dog from eating food from counters, sidewalks, and tables, you are likely going to need to do a bit more work.
This is because self-control can be difficult for dogs around food, especially when those foods are tasty and meant for humans.
Once you have found consistent success with sitting and staying before meals, you can then practice around other foods.
However, you will not be releasing your dog so that it can eat the food. Instead, you will redirect them to you. Giving them a treat at the beginning of this training will help reinforce the behavior.
Rewarding your dog with a treat is also a good idea when they leave very tempting food. Having a strong Leave-It command is beneficial for dogs that like to steal food as well. However, this is a command for a different time.